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Attorney: Teen Was Coerced Into Confession In Fatal Coney Island Fire

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – There was a change of tune Thursday for the Coney Island, Brooklyn teen accused of setting a fire that killed an NYPD officer.

As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, Marcell Dockery, 16, claimed through his attorney at an arraignment Thursday that he did not set the fire at all and a prior confession was coerced.

Members of his family wept in the courtroom as Dockery was arraigned on second-degree murder and assault charges Thursday in Brooklyn, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported. He was also charged in connection with an earlier unrelated robbery, 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa reported.

Also present were the parents of Officer Dennis Guerra, 38, who was killed in the fire. They declined speak about their son’s alleged killer.

Police said Dockery admitted to lighting a mattress on fire at a public housing high-rise on Surf Avenue on April 6.

The fire killed responding officer Guerra, and seriously injured his partner, Officer Rosa Rodriguez, 36.

Authorities have said he confessed to starting the fire because he was bored, but defense attorney Jesse Young said any confession his client made will be challenged.

“The confession was not voluntary, it was forced and it was coerced,” Young said. “We adamantly deny that he confessed.”

Young claimed his client did not even know who set the blaze.

“Of course he doesn’t know who set the fire,” Young said. “He that knows he didn’t set the fire.”

Young claimed the entire story about Dockery lighting the fire because he was bored was a false confession.

“‘I was bored. I lit a match. I set the mattress on fire’ — that’s what is false,” Young said.

Guerra and Rodriguez, responded to the fire on the 13th floor of the building, but were overcome by smoke and carbon monoxide.

Guerra never regained consciousness and succumbed to his injuries days later. The married father of four had more than seven years on the job.

Rodriguez, 36, remains in critical but stable condition. She is a single mother of four kids and a four-year veteran of the NYPD Housing Bureau.

Standing together with Guerra’s parents in the courtroom Thursday was a wall of blue. The police officers in the room dismissed the claim that the confession was coerced.

“He’s a murderer,” said Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch. “He’s entitled to a hired gun to make excuses for him. He confessed. He was bored and now he must pay the piper.”

Lynch also released a statement, calling Dockery a dangerous person who must suffer consequences.

“Marcell Dockery disregarded the safety of those who lived in that apartment house and of those who would respond to the fire that he set which killed a fine, heroic police officer and seriously injured a second,” Lynch said in the statement. “His indifference to the well being of others makes him a danger to society and he must be held accountable for his criminal actions and punished for the irreversible loss to the families of these two police officers.”

Defense lawyers claimed Dockery tried to put out the blaze and banged on neighbors’ doors hoping to alert them.

Dockery, who is also charged with arson, assault and reckless endangerment, faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted of killing Guerra.

Dockery has a prior arrest for lighting a fire. The unrelated robbery and larceny charges stemmed from a separate case in which police said he used a razor in the mugging of a 60-year-old neighbor.

What is clear, according to Dockery’s attorney, is that a defense claiming a false confession will go

In the wake of Guerra’s death, NYPD officials changed protocols for officers responding to fires.\

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